by Angela Reed-Fox
It's not unusual for new riders to be a little unsure about the whole cardiotraining thing. We get it. Let's put your mind at rest - heartrate training is wonderfully effective, enables you to take control of your own workout, and facilitates safe challenges.
Everyone can see how unfit i am
Um no. Each session is run with targets of percentage heartrate. Because everyone has a different maximum heartrate, this enables the class to stay together. That means that not only can we get all riders riding within a few percentage points of each other, it doesn't matter how fit/unfit you are - what's 82% of your maximum is going to feel the same as someone else at 82% of their maximum. It's a level playing field where everyone gets the same workout - it's more effective, and it completely negates the perceived need to compare ourselves with others.
If I go over my maximum, I'll combust
This won't happen. Your maximum heartrate is your maximum. If you were able to clock up, say, 101% with your heartrate monitor, that just means your maximum has been recorded incorrectly. Alter it on the system, and your workouts will become even more effective.
No spontaneous combustion then? Definitely not. All that would happen if you were to really smash it at a high heartrate is that you'd get tired and have to slow down or stop. Nothing to see here. Calm down, frisky.
My maximum heartrate will go up as I get fitter
This is mostly wrong. Our maximum heartrate is programmed into us. However, it is the case with new riders as they're finding their feet and becoming fitter and more confident than they were previously, they are able to push themselves harder which gives them the impression that their max heartrate increased - it hasn't, it's just that they're more able to reach it. As your fitness increases, you're able to work harder for longer, and push yourself further.
220 minus my age
The formula for working out an estimate of a rider's maximum heartrate is to subtract their age in years from 220. There are other formulas and calculators available, none are perfect. Why do we use this one? Because in a class setting it's very quick for the instructor to work out in his/her head. We recognise that it's only accurate for around 10% of the population, but we only use it as a starting point - because we use MyZone, which calibrates automatically to the rider's max heartrate, we can start there, and leave it to the heartrate tech to tune in.
The fact is that there are far more variables to determine someone's maximum heartrate than just their sex and age, so it makes more sense to work out what it really is through sessions run with heartrate training than it does to have a brilliant but inaccurate formula and just leave it at that.
Unfit people have a lower max heartrate
Again, related to one of the points above - this is not true. Max heartrate is determined by many things - sex and age, of course, but also things like medication, drug use/abuse (beta blockers will artificially deflate a max and caffeine will artificially inflate it), time of day, tiredness, stress, illness and infection, genetic factors, lifestyle factors - all sorts of things (which is why we're never too hung up on an initial estimate of a max heartrate - we just want to be in the ballpark). Of course, as mentioned, as you get fitter, you can push yourself harder with confidence and this can give you the impression you just increased your max - you haven't, it's just that you're now able to work closer to what it is.
So, you're not going to explode, you're not going to show everyone how unfit you are, and you're not going to achieve the max heartrate of a hamster if you keep pedalling hard. (You will get other benefits though, and these should be enough to keep you coming to Fox!)
Time to crack on? Let's do it!